The Workers’ Outlook
The press has pleaded until recently that the war must be won before the “blue prints of the future” are made. Now for a number of reasons the planning and. reconstruction propagandists are given full play, both over the air and in print.
Perhaps a good reason for the present flood of spiritual and temporal oratory on the part of the “better worlders” is the marked apathy shown by the workers to those who would arrange their future for them.
Truly no Socialist in the ranks of the organised workers could fail to see that, granted the toilers dutifully put up with all the “directions” given under the Essential Works Order, are ”pushed around,” as Americans say, that this is only tolerated because of their war resolution summed up in the words, “We don’t want Fascism here.” Yet by no token can this mood be taken as being in the spirit of class-collaboration. Indeed, in this respect the “Communists” have become about as popular as black-beetles by the anti-dispute aid they give the capitalists and their managements.
Perhaps the outlook of the not-too-articulate workers may be gathered by a quotation from an article by R. B. Bathers in the A.E.U. Monthly Journal for December, 1942.
“In the midst of the general rejoicings over the Allied victories, Mr. Henry Kaiser informs the world that the great masses of workers are shivering with apprehension that the war will come to an end. General Smuts says in 1944. Another American has prophesied that when peace comes the United States will have 18 millions unemployed. Similar apprehensions have been voiced here, and. as Lord Croft, divulging the Tory mind, has declared that we need no new order, we can assume that the number of unemployed here will be several millions. Sir Patrick Hannon, President of the National Union of Manufacturers, has spoken of “the absolute certainty of industrial impoverishment at the close of the conflict.” There is the fear, the fear of want. The masses are sceptical about Atlantic Charters and speeches about the New World Order, many of which are quite sincere— many are not.
Here, faith in the intentions of Parliament to implement the promises of the Charter is at a low ebb. It is lower because of our victories. For, as the tide has turned, so have the hopes of the Tories risen that they will continue to rule the roost and return to the Old Order. Big Business, represented by 120 prominent industrialists, has issued its programme for the future. Does this forecast the era of the Common Man? No. The Common Man is to be kept in his place as heretofore. He is to have no part in the control of industry, though he may get a few more crumbs. Sir Patrick Hannon fears that the Atlantic Charter, if carried out, would injure British competitive power. Obviously, he envisages an era of international competition for markets as before. That this would sooner or later end in war does not trouble Big Business. Like the Prime Minister, their slogan is ‘What is our own we hold’.”
It would be churlish to argue that the foregoing does not show the way to end capitalism; for it expresses a degree of class-consciousness which, if held by the mass of workers, would bode ill for capitalist rule.
In general one finds that though the workers are under the duress of war conditions, that Jingoism is weak, while the Socialist case, quite unvarnished, can be stated almost anywhere. But what of after the war? Can the capitalists hold their power and prestige?
It would be Utopian to think of a sudden conversion to Socialism on the part of the workers, as suggested by the I.L.P. in their ”Socialist Britain Now” stunt, even if the I.L.P. understood Socialism. In any case there are dozens of tricks left in the bag by which to bemuse a not-socialist working class.
Our capitalists could introduce centralised State insurance, Nationalisation, Empire, or should we say Common? wealth development, or even the setting of one section of the workers against the other by State jobs.
The ruling class could spend, if necessary, millions on propaganda in building up reformist or phoney parties to attract the workers, and would not be above taking an idea or two from the State Capitalism of Russia. In effect, any proposition could be tried which left the class relationship intact—namely, capitalists and wage workers.
In the opinion of the present writer, the political fight will become progressively keener, because of the State tie-up of the workers’ industrial organisations, which may continue long after the war. This will have the effect of nullifying much of the bargaining power of the workers, such as strike action and industrial hold-up.
The class struggle then enters the political stage, which makes quite archaic the ideas of those who advocate direct action, in the sense that capitalism can be overthrown by force behind the barricades. It puts these ideas where they originally belong—to the conspiratorial, unenfranchised period of working-class history.
We as a Party unflinchingly upheld the Socialist cause throughout World War No. 1 and the present conflict. We correctly interpreted, against all opposition, the Russian upheaval as not being a Socialist revolution.
All this and more is the splendid background of the Socialist Party with the sound case for ending the wages system.